I’m not a shark nor Klaus, but I know about internet safety.

So….Hello again, it has been a while.  Whilst throughout my PGCE I have thought that the ICT is very helpful, whilst undertaking my placements, keeping up with is has been difficult. I apologise and hope that these three posts certainly make up for my absence.  Quite a while ago know in ICT we learnt about internet safety, and whilst I believe it is incredibly important to promote internet safety, I never really understood how much of an issue it really was.  This however all changed when I embarked upon my second placement.

I was in year 6 for my second placement, and it was not until I heard some of the conversations in my classroom and in the playground, that I realised how much exposure children that young have to social networking sites and the general unprotected internet.  I recall one girl referring to FaceBook as FB and told another girl that she would “FB her the details of what time and where to meet afterschool.”  This really did worry me and I had to burst in an tell her about what I had learnt in ICT.  I mentioned how if her privacy settings are open, then anyone can see this and could easily meet her there and could be very dangerous.  This certainly seemed to shock the girl who I believe had just not really thought of the consequences of her actions, however, if naivety is the problem, this needs to be tackled.

She was only an example of what I had seen on placement, and it frightened me because it was quite a common occurrence between the older children in the school.  I know the school was very conscience about E-Safety, and did provide classes for children where they learnt about the dangers of the web.  This however, should be done very carefully because the internet is a very valuable source.  Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web stated that “the important thing is the diversity available on the Web.”  This I have to agree with, however, for the safety of our future generations, we must guard this diversity and channel it so that the children can use it as a tool, but most importantly a safe tool.

No signal…

In a day and age where people care more about mobile phone signal that knowing what their neighbours names are, I find the article published in the BBC News Education section yesterday very daunting.  Judith Burns wrote the article using statistics from the (ONS) Office of National Statistics, and within it, her point is frightening, they claim that “A third of poorest pupils ‘without internet at home’.”  This figure got me thinking…This is around as the article states, 750,000 children who do not have access to the internet at home which is a substantial amount.  From being in school and recalling the days when I was in primary education, I can recall how important a computer and internet was then from 1995-2002.  Now with more and more schools improving their online presence and using sites such as Moodle to get children to work at home, the internet is a must.

This therefore got me thinking…sometimes when this occurs I get crazy ideas which are only pipe dreams, but they’re always a positive idea to improve.  Not to drop product names especially as I do not work on commission, I have an iPhone 4.  Now I can get internet almost anywhere, if you ask me a question and I do not have the answer, whether we are on a bus, out for a stroll in the middle of the countryside or even in the middle of the English channel, I can find the answer.  Now if my network provider can provide me (slow) but a regular internet connection, why is it so difficult to provide internet to these children.

Now there are a number of ways the government could provide the internet to these children, they could outright pay for their contracts to the countries poorest, but where is the fairness and cost effectiveness in that.  My idea could see every child have access to a computer and internet which would benefit their education incredibly.  Child tax credits are paid to families who have children under the age of 18, an age which would see them leave sixth form/college to maybe go to University or get a job in which they can then buy internet.  The child tax credit is paid to help provide a better life for children and it helps families with shopping, bills and other necessities in raising a child.  In this day however is internet not a necessity?  The government could ensure that each child has access to the internet by giving a £400 bonus to those families who can not buy a computer, but instead of it being in money which can sometimes get misspent, send out a delivery of computers to these families and then cut down their child tax credits but £25 a month which will then pay for the internet without the families having to sort any bills or connection.

It does sound like a very long winded process and very expensive, but by taking the internet charge out of tax credits which is to help the children, the government would be providing the internet to the children which is of a huge benefit to their education.

For those about to rock…We salute you!

A while back we had a very interesting ICT lesson in which I got to play Rock Band.  When I walked into the classroom I saw the drums, guitar and microphone in all their glory and got very excited.  I had no pretense as to what this lesson would entail and how playing this would link into becoming an excellent interactive teacher, needless to say, the thought of playing computer games in an ICT lesson sounded like a lot of fun.

Then, once we had all settled down, (I sat directly next to Rock Band), Gareth started to tell us why there are games in the lesson and what impact and purpose there is for games within primary education.  Prior to this lesson i did not even consider gaming in lessons or within school for that matter, however, once Gareth had explained my eyes were widened and my idea of gaming changed.

Gareth used the following story of Rock Band to state his case, and since this lesson, I am very adamant  that I will use this idea within my teaching career.  There was one school teacher who took the game Rock Band and converted it into a term/half terms amount of work across all subjects.  He initially introduced the game and the children instantly loved it.  They played it, got used to it and soon wanted to play it more.  Once the children were interested and wanted to know more, the teacher bought forward that in groups they will each perform a song in a concert at the end of term to the parents.  In order to do this however there were many things to consider.  It was this which was his link to the other subjects.  In English he used lessons to create advertisement posters, persuasive letters to record companies, personal profiles of rock stars etc.  In maths he got the children to calculate the cost of equipment and the cost of a European tour linking ICT as the research tool.  In music they learned about the music they were playing and in other lessons such as art they designed posters and logos. After they had done all this they invited all the parents in and performed their concert accomplishing the idea of a world dominating tour.

In short this is a brief overview as to what was done in the school and I felt that it was a brilliant idea and wish to do this when I am teaching.  It highlights how there can be gaming within education as long as it is moderated and used with a plan.  I feel that it can be done with a number of games it just takes some creativity to draw out different elements from within a game.  I feel that with the Olympic legacy in place Mario and Sonic at the Olympic games could be used to improve P.E. in schools which from experience is something i feel needs improving.

To conclude, I believe that learning needs to be fun.  It is not helpful to either student or teacher if the lessons are boring and uninteresting.  Both lose the desire to learn and optimum learning does not occur.  In order to tap into the enthusiasm to learn and get the most out of your class learning must be made fun and using games as a bridge into their interests is something in this modern age which needs to be done at some point.

ICT Lesson – Linking my degree into teaching

Firstly, for this title to make any sense it might be worth me throwing some information out there.  I am officially a Historian by discipline.  When writing it, it does seem far more serious and boring than I could ever want to be which is why my enthusiasm, fun and energy is flowing throughout my teaching.  For three years I got to read lots of books about various parts of history ranging from the French Capetian dynasty, to the civil rights battles fought by JFK.  I do enjoy history and I love the discussion and opinions which come so naturally with the subject and the benefits the subject holds for the everyday classroom.  History provided me with a wide range of transferable skills which were not only developed throughout my degree, but firstly learnt at primary school.

I believe history plays a key role in developing children’s analytical, chronological and understanding skills which are transferable to all areas of the national curriculum.  I think there should be a big emphasis upon the subject due to the benefits it holds for so many subjects.  This could be due to a bias of opinion as a history graduate, or an educated opinion based upon its positives.

I do believe that in the current technological age we find ourselves, the age of the history book and previous research methods are slowly disappearing.  During the writing of my final thesis, the main resource I used was my computer.  It would be safe to say that without the use of my laptop my thesis would not exist and this is due to the research and recording that was done on it.  My thesis was “Why did John F. Kennedy introduce the Civil Rights Bill of 1963?”  The research I did for this was primarily from American articles and journals which had it not been for the internet, would not have been accessible to me.

This therefore highlights to me how important ICT is within history in terms of both research and data collection.  For my ICT lesson therefore, I combined my love of history with ICT and created a research lesson which allowed the children to complete a mini profile project.  The aim of the lesson was to work in pairs and research about a specific historical figure which was given to that pair and fill out a personal profile worksheet.  Each pair was given a different historical figure and the pairs were of mixed ability.  I found that the lesson worked very well as the children enjoyed researching about their figure and then reflecting upon this back to the rest of their peers.  The task saw them searching through information to gain the correct information that they needed to complete the worksheet.  I had within the resources accumulated a website for each historical figure which had both all of the information on needed, and that was also appropriate and safe for the children.

The lesson was a complete success with the children working together successfully to complete the task.  I feel that my knowledge of history allowed the lesson to benefit as I could answer questions the children had, I could also explain to them the importance of research and allow them to share my enthusiasm for the subject.

ICT within my first placement.

Upon arriving at the school that would be my place of hiding for the next 20 days I noticed that ICT within the school was something of great importance.  On my first day I was given an introductory tour of the school and noticed that each classroom had a ‘modern’ computer, and not one of the ‘retro’ RM computers I have seen in other schools.  I also saw that every classroom had a Smartboard™ which made me very happy as I had, (as mentioned in previous blogs), just learnt how to use one.  The final stop on my tour in regards to ICT was the ICT suite.  This was a whole room dedicated to the education of ICT, there were 28 computers with broadband internet access and many different computer applications.

I was very impressed with the technology within the school, and after speaking with the head teacher, it was something they had built as a school and still striving to build upon.  I also noticed that within the school, a lot of lessons used the support of ICT.  Whether this was in the form of a powerpoint presentation, or as an interactive game as a lesson starter.  The frequent use of ICT is something I classed as a positive; however something I do firmly believe in is the need to know the limits of ICT.  As a teacher it can be very easy to fall into the simple powerpoint presentation trap, something which I think if used too often can see the software become ineffective as a teaching tool.

Another use of ICT which I found as an excellent way to engage learning was through the use of ‘mathletics’.  This was used as a 45 minute starter at the beginning of every Thursday’s 2 hour slot.  The website incorporates games into learning by allowing the children to play games if they answer questions correctly.  The questions are set by the teacher so they are topical and cover the relevant information.  Another school wide use of ICT was called ‘Zondle’, this was the online hub in which homework can be set and accessed at home.  It was used throughout my placement and was effective at engaging the children in homework.

Inspiring the future Andy Warhol

On Tuesday 9th October I was enlightened and saw the subject of art in a completely different way.  I have always agreed with art within schools as it allows children to be creative and use many different forms to display their ideas.  One topic however within art that has always bugged me is ‘digital art’.  I was always frustrated that someone who can take a photograph, and ultimately just change the original colour into bright, vibrant colours and call it pop art can make so much money.  I feel however that during my art lesson my ideals were changed when there was an aspect to the lesson where in groups we had to create our own digital image using different artistic effects such as pop art or collages.

It was due to this part of the lesson that I am blogging because quite frankly it was the most fun I have had in a lesson for a long while.  Not only did the lesson focus upon the use of ICT in the classroom and within art, it saw us go on an adventure with ICT which would make me look at art and society in a completely different way.

As a group of three including, Paul Stewart, Andy Humphries and I, we decided to take ICT within art on an adventure and use it outside of the classroom.  We thought that for our digital art, we would document our journey to the classroom from the entrance of the university, taking photos with the people that we met along the way.  This I must highlight was a journey which was both fun and educational as it taught all three of us a lot and would teach children a lot too if carried out within school on a differentiated task.

We started our journey at the gates with no images and no one around to even capture this moment, so within 15 seconds we had stumbled upon our first hurdle.  Then we saw a lady who was more than willing to capture the image of us three PGCE students posing with the university welcome sign.  From this moment on we never struggled to capture an image and never met a single person who did not want their image taken or to take a photo.

Not only did this lesson educate me about the incredible use of ICT within art and the versatility of it, but also it taught us of the friendliness of the people around campus, who you otherwise would never even have stopped and talked to.  It was with this that our horizons were broadened and our social skills which were needed to talk to each of the strangers were improved.

The task saw us end up with 42 images of us with complete strangers who were willing to help us, (once we had described it was for a PGCE project and we will be educating the young minds of tomorrow), and we ended up heading back to the classroom full of smiles and achievement.  We then used the 42 images to create three collages, (set in chronological order), mapping our journey from start to finish with the people we met.

This was a great lesson and an activity we enjoyed thoroughly and it is something we thought can be altered to suit young children in the classroom.  Children in groups can map their journey through school and document what each place signifies for them.

As a result of my earlier remarks about getting rich off something so simple and the frustrations it gave, my final thought is that it is in fact a great way to make money, educate and inspire.  People who do this for their career obviously enjoy it as we did creating our collage.  If making money comes as a consequence then I am not surprised so many people do it.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable task and we did it for free and I would again.  I recommend the task for any classroom as it allows ICT to be used in a subject where the more traditional forms of paint and pencils take form and allows the hint of modernity to be embraced by the future generations of Andy Warhol’s

Stop Animation: A fun and simple way to turn your students into Spielberg.

Within our ICT lesson on Monday we learnt about stop animation and the possibilities of using it within the classroom.  We got into group and had to create a short movie using toys, play-dough or any other item with a webcam and a piece of software called ‘Monkey Jam’.  To anyone who would have come into the lesson, they would have seen twenty-four 21+ students playing with toys and having a great laugh at what each other created in what is frankly an amazing work environment.  This however is not the case because we simply were not playing, but creating the next big stop animation movie.

Oh yes, we were aiming for the stars. In stop animation the sky is literally the limit, there is no need for big budgets or expensive props, and even though it takes more time than money, the amount of fun you have whilst doing it makes it an ideal lesson/lessons for schools to undertake.  We found five lego men, one was builder, one was a policeman, another was a Native American… (You see where this is going…).  Anyway we found the lego version of the village people and it would have been rude not to try to create something a little like this…

Now we were working in a group of three, with a combined age of 70 and relatively good ICT skills.  Could we create this…well we did try but it seemed that technology had other plans.  We created what we thought was a really good piece however; the software we used chopped it up and deleted parts and threw the ending into the beginning and the middle at the end.  That being said what we created was ok for a first attempt.

It was a great lesson and I would recommend it to any teacher.  I will be certainly using it in my classroom due to the incredible benefits that this lesson has to offer.  Not only does it promote team work and team creativity.  It requires the individuals to enhance their technological understanding of the use of ICT, introduce them to new forms of media, and can be incredibly cross-curricular.

This is our finish video and I hope you have as much fun watching it as we did creating it.


Smart Boards: The incredible improvement since the blackboard and chalk.

Since last Monday’s session of learning about interactive white boards, our group consisting of Sam Watts, Paul Stewart and I, have been making resources for history.  Firstly I would just like to point that every school should invest in a smart board and secondly, for teachers a pupils alike, they are incredibly fun.

I have only had interactions with basic white boards which need a special pen for the use, however smart boards allow you to quickly use your finger, elbow and even your toes which when you can’t find that pen after wet play or a very interactive D&T lesson, is very handy.

It was this lack of need for a pen which instantly grabbed my attention as it was with my experience in school that batteries for these pens didn’t seem to last a while, causing another thing for teachers to remember.  Also I don’t tend to carry around a pair of AA batteries which could quickly be the end of my interactive maths lesson.

There are also so many features of the smart board which has so many benefits to the classroom it really allows each lesson to be bought to life with a huge supply of resources.   The features available on this easy to use piece of software really does allow for teachers to save time on creating exciting and practical lesson resources.

I think that it is a crucial piece of hardware and software which every school should invest in, without sounding too cheesy, the possibilities really are endless.

ICT in education on the rise?

At a time where ICT is everywhere and with the boom of the social network, I don’t think that there has been a greater emphasis needed for ICT in education.  Today in ICT I used a new tool called SMART notebook 11, which quite frankly is an amazing piece of software which allows ICT resources to be made for the computer on the computer incredibly easily!

With the use of this software, (which I hope I get to use in school and not a very old and difficult whiteboard), I thought it would be a good idea to blog about an article I found.  Ed Exec who look at the financial side of education have written an article about ICT funding within education and it is something which I found very interesting.

“A year on from schools stating their concern over the Government’s removal of ring-fenced funding for ICT, technology budgets across the UK are increasing, recent research has revealed.” This I thought was fantastic news as it would indicate that heads and the board of governors which decide where the money state schools receive goes, are seeing the need to invest in better ICT infrastructure.  This for any of you reading this is great news as it will allow us as educators to use and improve ICT within our classrooms.

ICT as I learnt today is such a versatile subject and can be used to benefit any subject within the national curriculum which I why I strongly believe it needs to be improved.  Ed Exec state “Looking ahead, the trend looks set to continue with 2013/4 ICT budgets forecast to rise by 3.3 per cent in primary and 2.8 per cent in secondary schools”  This is incredible as it would put the spending on ICT in schools at 254.6 Million.  With this amount of money so much can be done to improve ICT infrastructures within primary schools, however if I could have my way I would certainly increase this more due to the benefits to be had from a strong ICT structure within the primary school.

Education Detective

Whilst walking through university I came across a great bit of educational fate on Monday.  In a bid to appear clever and read up on the strange subject of world finance, (which actually interests me), I picked up a complimentary edition of the Financial Times from the Universities Cottesbrooke building.  It was only when I got home and started reading that I realised there was an educational article included.  This, due to Monday’s activities of starting my own blog, instantly gave me a brainwave which has now earned the article a place on here.

The article titled “Gove’s GCSE reforms diluted” – http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/b6c7774e-fffb-11e1-831d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz26ki9igKz  is something I found very interesting.  Throughout the article the main focus is upon the influence that the Liberal Democrats are having upon the newly proposed reforms of the GCSE’s.  This I know at the moment is something which is at the heart of debate within many educational practitioners’ hearts, and is eyed with both support and scrutiny.  I would like to highlight that this blog is educational and not political, however when talking about education it is sometimes hard not to incorporate the politics behind them.

It is with this therefore that I would like to express that the views people may seem to gather from this blog are entirely my own and not those of the University of Northampton’s nor anyone else’s.

With this disclaimer aside we can get back to the article.

Cook and Warrell report that there are further changes to be made to the GCSE’s and will allow for a monopoly bidding system to be carried out for one exam board to own all rights to the examinations for the subjects.  It was with this that I thought that monopolies, (with exception to the game), are not all that great and realised that ’Edexcel’, which is owned by the Pearson group would be bidding for this.  This is something that intrigued me because the Pearson group also own the Financial times which funnily enough wass where I was reading this article.  Then it struck me, I may be wrong and many may disagree, but when did education become about lining the pockets of the private sector, and not about the benefits to the children that will be facing these “single examboard dictatorships” for the five year periods that have been proposed.  As a prospective educator I feel that it needs to run more like a charity and less like a business, do what is best with the money available, rather than sell out to private companies who have little or no essential educational experience.

As a history graduate I have been drilled to ensure that when making a point, firstly I have some background knowledge of the subject, but secondly, I dig a little deeper to uncover anything which could be used to argue for or against my point to provide a stronger argument.  It is with this that I went exploring and found some information which may surprise a few.

Pearson’s managing director has this biography on their website – “Glen has more than three decades of experience in business and finance, and is currently deputy chairman of The Financial Reporting Council Limited in the UK and non-executive director of Fidelity International Limited. Previously, Glen was deputy chairman and senior independent director at Lloyds Banking Group plc, senior independent director of Man Group plc, and acting chairman of UK Financial Investments Limited, the company set up by HM Treasury to manage the government’s shareholdings in British banks.”  Again I am going to be a teacher not the chancellor of the exchequer, or even a journalist, but ‘Glen’ obviously didn’t too well at Lloyds as the Government now have a 43.4% stake in the Lloyds Banking Group due to the issues Mr Moreno both failed to address and fix.

I think what I am trying to say is that knowing his financial background and knowing that considering that this is his forte, and that he has kind of messed things up at Lloyds, Would you really trust this man with being the managing director over the educational monopoly if Edexcel were to gain it?

This therefore reverts to my very long winded (I apologise) point, that education should not be run as a monopoly system as it does not allow schools, who are run by educators, to choose what would be best for their students.  This therefore concludes that I believe that schools should be run by educators and not by people who are involved within business or politics.  Leave the banking to anyone, but leave the teaching to the teachers!!!